Quad-Fi is proud to help students achieve financial freedom. That is why this week, we spoke to a successful, recent Business graduate in Ontario regarding her career path and personal finance habits.
In the interview below, you will find how a student chose her Masters program, how she learned the value of investing, how she financially navigated through an unpaid internship and general tips to save money as a student.
Question #1: How did you choose your education and career path?
Growing up, I always loved playing sports. So, when my high school teachers told me to study what I loved, I naturally chose to study Kinesiology. However, during my undergrad, I struggled to figure out what I really wanted to do career wise. I wanted to be a veterinarian at one point, but I knew that my strengths were not in subjects like chemistry. As much as I wanted to find something that I was passionate about, I also needed to find something that aligned with my skill set.
I started to use my electives to take courses in other subjects that I was interested in and ended up really liking and doing well in a business course I was taking! To understand how I would be able to transition from the health science field into business, I started seeking guidance from recent graduates who had done the same thing via school clubs, mutual friends, and LinkedIn.
It was during these various conversations that I decided on a Masters program in business designed for students graduating from all types of programs. While completing this Business program, I was inspired, guided, and aided by my professors and peers to successfully enter my current role as a consultant in Toronto.
Question #2: How did you get started in personal finance and what type of personal finance habits did you practice as a student?
At a young age, both my parents taught me the value of money and the importance of saving and investing it. When I started my first part-time job as a hostess in high school, I would automatically put half of my pay cheque directly into a savings account. I didn’t even consider that money in my savings account as my own in order to prevent myself from using it! As a student in university, my expenses increased because I found myself buying a coffee almost every single day and also wanting to go out with my friends more. There were also many semesters where I needed to focus on my studies rather than work many hours at my part-time job at a restaurant.
Below are some of my personal finance habits that helped me get through school:
- Plan your monthly budget ahead and check on it regularly
Every single month I set a budget for how much I am able to spend. At the end of each day, I input how much I spend into an expense tracker to remind myself how much money I have left for the remainder of the month. I personally find that when I track my expenses every single day, I am less likely to go over the monthly budget because I keep better track of things like Amazon orders and dinners with friends. When setting this monthly budget, it’s also important to set them based on each month. For example, you may need to set your October and November budget lower in order to have a high budget for December for all the Christmas gifts you may need to buy!
2. Budget based on how much you make or have, not how much you want to buy
When creating your monthly budget, it is important to base it off of what you make or what you have, and not because you “feel” like you want to spend $300 a month on takeout. For example, if I know I will be making $2000 one month, then I may set my budget as $500 for that month, and then further allocate that into groceries, eating out, gifts, personal care, etc.
3. Whatever you don’t spend from your budget, put back into your savings!
This is a super easy habit to get into! Never try to spend your full budget just because it is there. Using the example above, if you only ended up spending $300 of the $500 for the month, take the $200 and put it into your savings account. Your savings account is a great place to start saving for a big-ticket item such as a laptop or a vacation.
Question #3: Did you encounter any financial obstacles while supporting yourself through school? If so, how did you resolve them?
When I switched career paths, a requirement for my Business program was to work as an unpaid intern for one summer in a developing country. Although the opportunity was exciting, it was an entire summer where I wouldn’t have an income. As a student, I relied a lot on working full-time during the summer holidays to save as much as I could for the upcoming semester.
What I ended up doing was having to dip into my savings account for a few months (which is why it is important to have one!) and I also decided to tutor and edit essays on the weekend (a side job that was fully remote and autonomous!). When thinking about unpaid internships, I viewed these opportunities as short-term losses for long-term gain. For example, if an unpaid or minimum wage position could help me gain the necessary experience in my field and potentially help me land my dream job, then the few hundred dollars I was missing out on for the summer would not mean much in the long run.
Question #4: Which personal finance/budgeting strategies would you recommend for students looking to get started?
Start by looking at your monthly credit card bill and track your spendings by category. Examine each category and determine how many of your purchases are a “need to have” vs. a “want to have.” Personally, doing this exercise gave me perspective on how much I realistically need to budget each month and save as well. It’s also a great way to see how much you actually spend on things such as Ubers, Amazon orders, and eating out.
If you work odd jobs where monthly income is not stable, plan ahead! I personally keep an Excel file to ensure that I can plan what I expect to make and therefore adjust what I expect to spend and save. From there, I would then recommend building up your savings account. Once you have a savings account going, you can then start to get comfortable with the idea of investing your money!
This interview provides a recent graduate’s perspective on personal finance habits, the benefits of budgeting as a Masters student, and tips to start investing in your future.